Getting to Know Soprano Allison Walmsley!

We are delighted to have soprano Allison Walmsley join us for Bach’s Magnificat! 

Currently living in Toronto, Allison is coming home to Saskatoon to have her SSO debut. We asked her some questions to get to know some things that are not usually in an artist’s bio.

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
AW: There are too many favourite music memories to choose from!!! But I’ll never forget singing Daniel Kantor’s Night of Silence every Christmas for 10 years with the Saskatoon Children’s Choir.

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
AW: I try to embrace nerves as much as possible. Their existence, for me, is an indication that I really care about the work I do and the music I help create.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
AW: It’s genius. So simple and clean, but every time you come back to it you find something new!

SSO: We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
AW: Enthusiastic, Positive, Passionate, Empathetic, Hardworking, Honest.

SSO: If you could perform any piece, regardless of voice type, what would you pick?
AW: Se vuol ballare from Marriage of Figaro, or maybe the Diva Plava Laguna’s song from the Fifth Element.

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
AW: Mozart!

SSO: What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
AW: I love the prairies, because having lived away from home for 3 years, prairies means family to me.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
AW: I’ll be performing in Waterloo in Opera Vera Causa’s Canadian Opera Fest as Kate in The Covenant, and Luna in Padajuca Zvijezda. Both operas will be premiers of female Canadian composers! In July, I’m looking forward to singing Adina in Donizetti’s classic, The Elixir of Love, with Opera By Request in Toronto. I’m also very excited to be returning to Saskatoon in December to sing Messiah with the SSO!

Getting to know Magnificat soloist Spencer McKnight

Originally from LeRoy, Saskatchewan, tenor Spencer McKnight is well known to SSO audiences for his Messiah performances. His eloquent ornaments and crystal clear sound are loved by all! We asked him some questions recently to get to know him a bit better before his performance this weekend at Bach’s Magnificat.

SSO: You’re originally from LeRoy, but where are you based from these days?
SM: Outlook

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
SM: One of my favourite memories is getting to perform my first hour long concert at Third Ave United Church in Saskatoon. I learned a lot from that recital!

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
SM: Being really well prepared tends to help get rid of nerves. Before a show I might get some nerves, but if you realize that it’s just adrenaline you can use for the performance it’s less scary.

SSO: Was there an aha moment that made you realize music was the path for you?
SM: Yes, I decided to drop out of political science and focus on music. Within 6 months of that decision I was representing Saskatchewan at nationals where I won an award – and I was happier than I’d ever been. So I knew I was on the right path.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
SM: Bach is great because his music is so well written that it still sounds fresh today, and figuring out where you fit in all the moving pieces is always a challenge and great fun!

SSO: We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
SM: ”He was there, now he’s here” (We at the SSO office think this one is a winner!!)

SSO: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
SM: “If you can picture yourself doing anything other than music, do that. If not – it’s worth all the hard work and heartache.”

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
SM: Cecilia Bartoli… I would sing anything with her. She is just such a consummate artist. 
(For those of you who follow our Executive Director on social media you know that Mark Turner recently saw Bartoli in performance!!) 

SSO:What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
SM: This will be a very pedantic answer…but the skies. When I lived in Toronto I missed looking up and seeing the huge cloud banks we have here. When I moved back home I found myself staring at the horizon and taking pictures of every single cloud and sunset.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
SM: Over the past two years I’ve been developing a concert of music from the Great War with Mark Turner. We toured it to a few communities last fall – and are planning on touring it to more communities this fall to commemorate the 100th anniversary of armistice. It has been such an amazing artistic experience crafting the show and sharing it with audiences.

Join Spencer and all our guests at Bach’s Magnificat – Saturday, May 26, 7:30 pm at Knox United Church. Tickets are available at the door or you can buy them here.

Getting to Know Contralto Lisa Hornung

We are quickly approaching our performance of Bach’s Magnificat and thought it would be fun for you to get to know our guest artists a bit better!

SSO audiences are well acquainted with the incredible voice of contralto Lisa Hornung. Originally from, and still based out of North Battleford, Lisa has continued to make the drive to Saskatoon for many years to be a part of our Messiah performances among others. She is known for her warm smooth sound and her beautiful smile.

We asked Lisa a few questions. See what she has to say below!

SSO: What is your favourite music based memory?
LH:Family sing-songs – around the campfire or in the basement around the piano.

SSO: How do you deal with nerves?
LH:Practice a lot. Delve into / discover / enjoy the text-music relationship.  Remind myself it is not about me.

SSO:Was there an aha moment that made you realize music was the path for you?
LH: Honestly, I don’t remember a time without music.  I have not always loved it (sometimes music is frustrating and unpredictable, especially as an asthmatic with severe allergies) but I have always needed it. Music makes me whole – not sure if there was ever a time I didn’t know that somewhere in my soul.

SSO: Why do you enjoy singing Bach?
LH: It’s beautiful, challenging, playful, whole.

SSO:We recently did 6 word autobiographies with the students of St Mary’s who were a part of Kitohcikewin/Listen up! What would your six words be?
LH: Hmmm, didn’t know how to answer this so I asked my husband.  His six words for me are:  passionate, fun-loving, optimistic, committed, thoughtful.  Yes, I am married to a saint 🙂

SSO: What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?
LH: Enjoy today.

SSO: If you could perform any piece, regardless of voice type, what would you pick?
LH: The Lakes of Cool Finn – really, all Irish folk music. Oh! Big Band anything too 🙂

SSO: If you could work with anyone living or dead who would it be?
LH: Janet Baker 

SSO: What is your favourite thing about the prairies?
LH: My Family is here.

SSO: What are some upcoming projects, or ones on the go, that you want to share with everyone?
LH: Summer School for the Solo (and choral) Voice July 7-14 .  Great time of learning, music making, collaborating, visiting….fun 🙂


You can get tickets to Bach’s Magnificat and read Lisa’s full bio here.

Both Sides Now Downtown YXE

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the iconic Joni Mitchell grew up here in Saskatoon – in fact, Saskatoon and the Canadian prairies make many appearances in Joni’s catalogue of songs.  In Cherokee Louise we hear her talk about the Broadway Bridge, and Paprika Plains is a hymn about her love for the plains.  

To coincide with the SSO’s performance of Joni’s music from her albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue, we partnered with DTNYXE for a photo display along 2nd and 3rd Aves downtown.

The photos bridge Joni’s more than fifty year career, and each is paired with a line from her legendary song Both Sides Now.

“The title of the concert, Don’t Give Yourself Away, comes from a line in Both Sides Now,” says SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.  “There’s such an incredible passion in her eyes that is present no matter what year the photos were taken.  And her orchestral jazz recording in 2000 of Both Sides Now show that, like her eyes, her search for art and life never faded in her music and lyrics either.”

The posters are on display until March 5th – take a walk all the way down 3rd Ave to read from the first lines, “Rows and flows of angel hair” to the end of the song.

“She deserves so much more celebration than we’re able to give her, but we felt so compelled to bring this music to life as her orchestral jazz albums are amongst the best the genre has ever offered.”

The concert features Vince Mendoza who arranged and conducted both albums for Joni.  He’s joined by bassist Edwin Livingston, jazz legend Peter Erskine on drums, vocalist Sarah Slean, and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.

Win A Print of Denyse Klette’s Joni

“I am a Lonely Painter, I Live in a Box of Paints” – Denyse Klette

In 2017, artist Denyse Klette helped us celebrate our Mozart Festival with a one-of-a-kind portrait of Wolfgang – and when she found out that we had a concert celebrating the music of Joni Mitchell, a new idea was born.

Denyse is known for her remarkable ability to capture a moment in paint – her art is full of life and colour, and shows her absolute love of life.  The painting’s title comes from a line in Joni’s classic A Case of You, and the painting references that Joni has often said she sings her sorrow and paints her joy.


Anyone who purchases a ticket by March 1st at 12 noon will be entered into a draw to win a limited edition artist-enhanced canvas print of the painting (valued at $995).  If you’ve already purchased a ticket for the show, don’t worry – you are already entered into the draw.  Denyse will make the draw live on stage the night of the concert.

Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell features the SSO conducted by long-time Joni collaborator Vince Mendoza and features Sarah Slean on vocals – the concert marks the first ever live performance of the music from Joni’s albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue.

Click here to get your tickets!

The 5 Top SSO Stocking Stuffers

Tickets to the SSO make a perfect stocking stuffer, so we made it simple to know what the perfect gift for your loved ones.

The remainder of our season is jam-packed with incredible concerts, so this list was hard to widdle down!

#5 – A Musical Homecoming

Saskatchewan has produced some of the finest musicians Canada has to offer….so we thought it was high time to bring two of the brightest stars home!

Tania Miller grew up in Foam Lake, and did her first music degree at the University of Saskatchewan…she went on to become the first Maestra of a Canadian orchestra.  She’s garnered herself a reputation for her bold artistic passion which has made her a favourite on the podium of orchestras like the Chicago Symphony and Toronto Symphony.

Trumpeter Guy Few has long been an audience favourite at the SSO – he’s been both trumpeter and pianist with the SSO.  His fearless virtuosity never fails to blow the audience away!

With two hometown musical superstars, this concert is going to be one of the biggest nights of the year!
Great gift for music lovers, people who love a great night out.

Click for Tickets

#4 – The Armed Man – a moving masterpiece

Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ knows how to strike a chord.  When his work The Armed Man premiered in 2000 the audience knew it was witnessing something very special.  It is triumphant, heart breaking, emotional, and a universe call for peace….and the Benedictus has become one of the most popular pieces of music of the 21st century.  The SSO is joined by the Canadian Chamber Choir and Greystone Singers for this Saskatchewan orchestral first.

With this gift, you’ll get a call the morning after our concert saying they couldn’t possibly thank you enough!
Great gift for grand parents, people who love choral music, and first-time symphony goers.

Click for Tickets


#3 – Silence is Golden – Charlie Chaplin edition

We’re getting back to the silver screen, and this time we’re featuring the tramp.  Charlie Chaplin’s films are iconic – his was a remarkable sensitivity for comedy and sincerity.  This gift comers as a two-fer – we’ve got a double header featuring two Chaplin films for the price of one…”The Immigrant” followed by “The Adventurer”.

It’s the ultimate movie night – pair it with a gift certificate to one of Riversdale’s amazing restaurants and yours will be the best gift!
Great gift for the film buff in your world, people who like a concert experience off the beaten path.

Tickets on sale December 8th.

#2 – You’re a wizard Harry!

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter novel, the SSO is bringing the music of Harry Potter to life on stage with full symphony orchestra.  Hedwig’s Theme, Harry’s Wonderous World, Hogwarts Forever, and many many more!  Dress up, because lets face it…everyone else will be too!

Plus getting the tickets now avoids being disappointed when it sells out!
Great gift for the wizards in your world…no matter the age.

Click for Tickets

#1 – Don’t Give Yourself Away – the Music of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell’s music is hard to quantify.  It has influenced every musical generation after it; it has given inspiration to women singer-songwriters who call her role model; it was the voice of an era and a place in time, yet timeless.  We’re featuring songs from Joni Mitchell’s orchestral albums Both Sides Now and Travelogue – her musical collaborator on the albums, Grammy winner Vince Mendoza, is coming to lead the SSO in the first concert performance ever of this music.  We welcome back chanteuse Sarah Slean for this once-in-a-lifetime concert.

Both Sides Now, A Case of You, and many many more!
Perfect gift for mom and dad, aunt and uncle, the amazing women in your life, and of course Joni fans!

Click for Tickets

This holiday season we think the gift of live music is the absolute best way to tell your loved one you think they rock!


SSO’s Picasso Connection

Saskatoon’s art scene is coming of age this week.

Opening the Remai Modern is the most highly anticipated arts events of the decade in Saskatoon.  And particularly exciting for Saskatoon to have a chance to finally see its remarkable new Picasso collection on display for the first time.

In 1964, the same year that the Mendel Art Gallery opened, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra commissioned a new work by Canada’s leading composer of the time, Harry Somers.  Somers was paramount to the development of the identity of Canadian classical music, and was involved in the development of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian Music Centre.  Among his many notable compositions is his opera Louis Riel which was written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the confederation of Canada.

The 1960s proved to be a pivotal decade in Somers’ career. He became more involved in diverse aspects of the Canadian music scene and his career as a composer finally took off. Although he had struggled to make a living on his compositions prior to this point in his career, this was the decade in which Somers no longer needed to hold a permanent position at any establishment and instead was able to live off of his commissions alone.

He began the decade by returning to Paris for more compositional studies, thanks to a Canada Council for the Arts fellowship. While there, he concentrated on Gregorian chant, particularly its revival by the Solesmes Abbey.

When he returned to Canada, Somers became interested in how young people were being exposed to and educated about Canadian music. He sought to improve upon their education via a number of different methods. In 1963, he became a member of the John Adaskin Project, which was an in-school initiative involving the teaching and performance of Canadian music in schools. Also in 1963, Somers began his part-time career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation by hosting televised youth concerts.

John Adaskin was the brother of Murray Adaskin who was the SSO’s 4th Music Director.  Through the Adaskin connection, the SSO commissioned a new work for chamber orchestra from Somers.

In 1964, Somers wrote the SSO the “Picasso Suite”.  It was adapted from music for a television program on the life of Picasso. The suite is nine movements long. The performing forces consist of: a flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, trumpet, strings, two percussionists, piano, and celesta.  It’s jazz infused and captures the many artistic eras of Picasso’s life…the Blue period, Cubism, Neo-Classical, you get the idea!

The first movement, “Paris 1900 – Snapshot” is in B flat major. it is marked Allegro and is in 4/4 time. It opens with a trombone glissando, which leads directly into a snappy parody of a ragtime melody played by the trumpet and trombone. The piano and percussion parts are improvised over a pizzicato bass. The short, symmetrical phrases feature syncopated rhythms. A siren, whistle, and triangle add color. The final measures are marked accelerando.
The eighth movement, “Arcadia – Faun with Flute – Innocence” is in G major. The tempo is marked allegretto. It is in 3/4 time and is played in a delicate waltz style. The melody is derived from a simple Spanish folk song. The music box-like theme is played first on the solo glockenspiel. The solo flute repeats the melody to a simple pizzicato accompaniment. The enchanted mood is maintained by the celesta and glockenspiel in the closing measures.

Click to Take a listen!


NACO’s I Lost My Talk

I Lost My Talk is based on the poem by Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. Rita Joe penned her poem to express not only the pain and suffering she experienced at Schubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, but also her hope and conviction that her words could guide and inspire indigenous and non-indigenous peoples across Canada to journey to a place of strength and healing. NAC award composer John Estacio has created a lush musical score which is performed in synergy with a film by world-renowned director Barbara Willis Sweete.

The film, shot in High Definition on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, features 10 First Nations dancers moving in choreography created by Santee Smith Tekaronhiáhkhwa, Artistic Director of Kaha:wi Dance Theatre. Rita Joe’s poem is narrated by Guna and Rappahannock actor Monique Mojica. Visual designers Normal bring the film to life on screens that immerse the orchestra and audience. (This work premiered January 14, 2016). Duration 20 minutes.

Commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Right Honourable Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E. by his family.

I Lost My Talk by Rita Joe

I lost my talk
The talk you took away.
When I was a little girl
At Shubenacadie school.

You snatched it away:
I speak like you
I think like you
I create like you
The scrambled ballad, about my word.

Two ways I talk
Both ways I say,
Your way is more powerful.

So gently I offer my hand and ask,
Let me find my talk
So I can teach you about me.

Alexander Shelley reflects on the creation of I Lost My Talk

In a way, we spend our lives searching for our sense of self. For most of us it is a slow burn, an adventure explored on our own terms, in our own time. For others, the sense of self is challenged brutally and abruptly – violently even. We see it across the world on a daily basis – peoples torn away, displaced, their cultures threatened as they yearn for a home that no longer exists.

This powerful performance explores the themes of exile, resistance and displacement and ultimately celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

The great Mi’kmaw elder and poet Rita Joe, C.M. – as with the other composers on our program – faced an insidious attack on her identity and did so with honour, wisdom, integrity and enormous compassion. Her powerful message of hope encourages peaceful reconciliation and was the inspiration behind this unique symphonic experience that combines music, motion and film.

As soon as I read “I Lost My Talk”, I knew that I wanted to engage with it, that I wanted it to be part of our creative lives, that I wanted us to carry her beautiful and dignified message to our audiences both nationally and internationally. Importantly and poignantly, her message also transcends its Canadian roots at a time when more and more people of different heritages are having to learn to listen and to understand

Donna Feore shares her experience with producing and directing I Lost My Talk

Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk is mother to all the creative collaborations that make up this performance. It was my goal to unite each artist through their unique response to Rita Joe’s words — Rita’s language. No matter how disparate their disciplines, we would find ways to communicate, to inspire. Music is a language. Dance is a language. Film is a language. All three are universal. Rita’s is not. Rita’s is intensely personal and painful. And yet her story must be told and retold for it touches us, universally. Rita Joe is our Elder. I hope what follows proves with what devotion we have begun to listen.

John Estacio describes his composition I Lost My Talk

In fifteen lines of poetry, Rita Joe’s poem I Lost My Talk captures the discombobulating fear of being forced to leave one’s culture. Just as the poem is divided into four stanzas, the composition is divided into four uninterrupted movements.

A bucolic flute solo captures the narrator’s life prior to attending Shubenacadie Residential School. Strings play a hymn that suddenly transforms into a harsh musical environment; the flute melody is now fractured and lost within a foreign tonal soundscape.

Throughout the second movement, as shattered musical themes recover, the percussion and lower brass frequently interrupt, forcing the melody to regroup and move forward into an atmosphere that becomes relentlessly oppressive.

With the words “you snatched it away,” an aggressive third movement begins; the solo flute returns, swept up in frantic momentum. A percussion solo ushers the return of the hymn, now fraught and anguished. With the text “two ways I talk,” the hymn is played in two different keys simultaneously.

With “I offer my hand,” the noble fourth movement begins; here, an anthem for reconciliation soars as the narrator finds the courage to act as an ambassador, bringing peace and understanding to two different cultures as well as her own life.

O Canada Concert Citizenship Ceremony

The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra is proud to announce that it will become the first orchestra in the country to host a Citizenship Ceremony on stage.

On May 13th before the final concert of our 86th season, the SSO will celebrate and welcome 20 new citizens to the country.

The concert celebrates the 150th anniversary of the confederation of Canada.  The performance features Canadian music that celebrates the history before confederation and the future of our country.  The SSO orchestra, led by Eric Paetkau, brings two world premieres to the stage: a new fanfare by leading composer Derek Charke, Elan, commissioned for the SSO by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canada 150, and John Burge’s Four Seasons of the Canadian Flag.

Also featured that evening is actor Carol Greyeyes narrating the SSO’s performance of John Oliver’s The Raven Steals the Light, a work that explores the West Coast First Nation’s story of a Raven who brings light to the world.  SSO Principal Percussionist and National Music 2015 winner Bryan Allen will perform Vincent Ho’s The Shaman – the work is inspired by Shamanism in many international indigenous cultures, which explores the idea of connection between Shamans’ healing spirit and soul and the role that orchestras can play through emotional and inspirational music making.

“Having the citizenship ceremony at this concert is some of the most important work the SSO has ever done,” said SSO Executive Director Mark Turner.  “Regardless of anniversaries or festivities, this is a chance for the SSO to express our national identity.  Canadian music is in a new golden age and we can’t wait to share this music at the concert.  Welcoming new citizens to their home surrounded by an audience and an orchestra engaged in a collective sharing of their music is a very special thing.”

The first part of the citizenship ceremony will take place earlier in the evening, backstage.  The final swearing in will take place on stage, and then new citizens and audience will join with the SSO to sing O Canada.  Three of the four composers will be attending the performance and working with the orchestra during the rehearsals.

O Canada, the SSO’s season finale is on May 13th at 7:30pm at TCU Place.